The Legend of Bull Sullivan

Practically nobody outside East Mississippi knows about or remembers Coach Bull Sullivan. He’s one of those legendary figures you hear about in hushed, reverent tones from the elders of the community. In my area, there are still a number of people around who played for him…such as one of my uncles, my high school principal/football coach, another coach from school, and the daddies of a few of my old school mates. His assistant coach of many years was a cousin of my dad’s. In fact, I have one of his old playbooks in my possession.

Sports Illustrated ran an article on the man–at the time, the longest article ever devoted in SI–back in 1984 by Frank Deford entitled, “The Toughest Coach There Ever Was”. This is pretty much the truth. I wish football were still like this…the cry babies we see so much in football today would never have made it past high school if the sport were still dominated by real men of genius such as this. I would like to share this one on this site, as well as keep it archived here. I didn’t post it with permission, but I figure after twenty years since its printing date, it’s not that critical an issue.

I highly recommend that you read this article, “The Toughest Coach There Ever Was”.


This on-again, off-again, would-be commentator proves that attitudes are contagious, and that some can even kill. To this end, every written word is weighed carefully to ensure the precise delivery of the author's intent while inflicting blunt force trauma to the psyche of the reader.

59 thoughts on “The Legend of Bull Sullivan

  • Everytime I hear the name Bob “Bull” “Cyclone” Sullivan I can’t help but think of the stars across the front of my #7 East Mississippi J.C. jersey from the mid eighties. If I had gone on to fame in the NFL, I would still proudly display my jersey from Scooba alongside it on the wall. As you know Coach Sullivan had long been gone in 1985 but that custom designed jersey that he put so much of himself into is still slipped over the pads today. My second year, 1986-87 another star was added to the front shoulder of our jerseys in memory of Coach Sullivan. Coming from Grand Bay, Alabama, along the gulf coast, I didn’t have a clue who he was when I signed with EMJC. When I left in 1987, I spoke about Coach Sullivan the same way I speak about Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, with much respect and love. All those things I learned as his memory and legacy are still alive and well in Scooba, Mississippi. Thank you for letting me put in my two cents and I agree. If you’ve never read the article that appeared in Sports Illustrated, I second this man’s recommendation!

  • I remember reading the article by Deford back in 1984 and it was the only SI issue I have ever saved. Unfortanately, Hurricane Katrina destroyed it. Yesterday, for some inexplicable reason, I remembered Bull and decided to Google his name and found this blog. I re-read the story and bookmarked it. What a read that story is and what a man Bull was. Now that I have read the story again I feel compelled to locate his children and write them a note to let them know that I hold their father — a man I have never met — in extremely high regard and consider him one of my heros. Thanks for posting this. I would have been proud to serve on the “gook squad.” ~ John

  • This is the same article I read in the Dr.’s office in April 1984 one week before I met Michelle , my wife. The first time Michelle introduced me to her father, in discussion that daywhile watching football together, I mentioned an article I read of a nasty football coach who had his players paint a skull and cross bones on their helmets. Her father “Mitch Mitcherson” looked at me funny and said, “that’s my uncle”. I almost fell over! Mitch received a football scholarship and chose not to play for his uncle but did play for “Ole Miss”.

  • I too, kept the Sports Illustrated magazine with the article Frank Deford wrote about the exploits of Cyclone Sullivan. If you go on e-bay there are some old copies floating around.
    I played football at Southwest Jr. College in the falls of 1963 and 1964. I played against Sccoba twice and got full exposure to the legend that Cyclone Sullivan was and is, a bigger than life character, then and now.
    I can not dispute anything that Deford wrote; but I can add a couple lines to the legend. My roommate, Don Magee, a retired Principal in the Pike County School system, and I were playing defense against a Billy Buckner Scooba team. Don chased Billy out of bounds, fell down and roled up at the feet of Cyclone. Cyclone, in his gentlemanly manner responded by kicking Don as hard as he could. Don has yet to forgive Cyclone.
    Cyclone would not allow his players to wear helmets with face masks. Cyclone thought the face mask increased the chance of neck injuries. I don’t know about neck injuries; but all of the linemen had very crooked noses and wore mouth pieces long before mouth pieces were mandated. As a nose guard I really enjoyed the opportunity that unprotected faces presented.
    Billy Buckner was a great quarterback and I understand he is a fine and accomplished man. Legend has it that a $50 bounty (and no Mississippi Jr. College player in 1964 had ever seen that much money in one place) was put on Billy’s head and was payable to any player that could put him out of the game. I don’t know if the legend is fact because he lasted the entire game with us and we lost by three points.
    The article is wonderful. It captures the man and it captures the times and conditions prevalent in the impoverished rural south between WWII and Vietnam. Frank Deford’s article makes me appreciate how blessed I am to have participated in the Mississippi Jr. college football scene and how blessed I am to have been exposed to Cyclone Sullivan.
    Jackson Jones, Louisville, Kentucky

  • While I was coaching at the Univ.of Alabama, the late Coach Ken Donahue and myself would be riding together on a recruiting trip. Sometimes he would reminisce about ex players and coaches.One night he told me several stories flattering Coach Sullivan and his teams including the guards lining up backwards in a game. He said he saw that in person. This day and time you will not find many men with the principles of Coach Sullivan.

  • As a special note, Coach Sullivan (along with Bill Buckner and Clyde Pierce) was recently inducted into the Mississippi Community/Junior College Hall of Fame.

    I’ve mirrored the article for posterity here, and it includes a link to the original article.

    ~ Scott

  • Mrs. Virginia Sullivan died on Monday, June 18, 2007.

    I thought I’d mention it here, as I’m sure it’d be of interest to those who find this article, given that it’s the first hit on a Google search for Bull Sullivan. The obituary is quoted from The Meridian Star’s June 21, 2007, edition.

    Virginia Dale Sullivan

    Retired educator

    COLUMBUS — Services for Virginia Dale Sullivan will be held Friday at 2 p.m. at Lowndes Funeral Home Chapel with the Revs. Ellis Tate and Randy Rigdon officiating. Burial will be in Murrah’s Chapel Cemetery in Columbus.

    Mrs. Sullivan, 83, formerly of Columbus, died Monday, June 18, 2007, at Oklahoma State University Medical Center in Tulsa. She was born on Nov. 26, 1923, in Giles County, Tenn., to the late Roy B. and Eliza Troxler Dale. She lived in this area since 1992, having moved from Tulsa. She was a member of Murrah’s Chapel Baptist Church. She was employed as a teacher at East Mississippi Junior College, Mississippi University for Women and the University of Tulsa, for more than 30 years. She was administrative assistant to the Dean of Continuing Education at the University of Tulsa.

    Survivors include her children, Gael Sullivan and Bobby Sullivan, both of Tulsa, Royce Sullivan of Portland, Ore., and Vic Sullivan of Columbus and a grandchild, Dallas Sullivan.

    She was preceded in death by her husband, Coach Bob “Bull� Sullivan.

    Memorials may be made to a charity of choice.

    Pallbearers will be Bob Wilson, Chuck Fleming, Charles Rigdon, Bill Cole, Johnny Stokes, Stanley Clark and James Price.

    Visitation will be today from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at the funeral home.

  • I played for Coach Sullivan Spring of 61 thru fall of 61, then found out I had no elgbility left, stayed on as a student coach for the 62 season.
    I can say I have never met a mortal human being (other than my dad), that I loved and respected as I did Coach Sullivan. I was fearful of him and all who played for him, if they were truthful, would say the same thing. I had friends on that team I would like to name, but better not, as the privacy kaws are so strict. My room mate, Raymond Walker (Big Ruby) has passed so I can mention him. I was so thankful that Coach Sullivan went out of this world saved. I wasn’t as talented as a lot of our team, but Coach got me scholorships to Hardin Simmons, Delta State and Howard College, which Coach Bobby Bowden was head coach. I fractured my hip a week before our first game, docs said i would have to sit out a year. I got disgusted and joined the Army. Coach Sullivan helped many, many players who loved the game, but didn’t have the talent a lot of others had. I just wish I could shake his hand and thank him for the toughness he instilled in most of his players. There are countless stories I could tell alone. Still today, after 40 years, when I say I went to Scooba , they ask if I played for Bull Sullivan, and I say that respectfully.

  • Coach Bob Sullivan…A Greek Tragedy?

    By Allen Bruton
    E-mail: moc.liamtohnull@noturbda

    The beginning of this fall’s football season marks the fiftieth anniversary of the return of colorful football coach Bob “Bull� Sullivan to East Mississippi Community College. But to only describe Coach Sullivan as colorful would be somewhat akin to only describing the Pope as Catholic…he was quite a character!

    In his early years of coaching, the referee was the main object of his hilarious escapades; when their call went against him he would pace the sidelines, stomp his hat into the ground, kick and throw everything in sight, all the time bellowing at the referee at the top of his voice to express his disagreement with the call… and entertaining his audience.

    Later in his career he resorted to other schemes; sometimes they were impromptu, like in the game where he ran onto the field and kicked the football out of the stadium. And at other times his schemes were well orchestrated, like in the next game when he had himself chained to the bench until the game was over.

    To psych his opponents, he had his teams wear leather helmets with a skull and cross bones painted on the front of each one of them, and they wore no facemasks.

    During one game he instructed his offensive linemen to crouch themselves over in a
    two-point stance facing the offensive backfield, which gave the opposing defensive linemen an excellent view of their posteriors. There was absolutely nothing that he would not do to interrupt the concentration of his opponents or to entertain his audiences. The football field was his stage and he was the main character on it.

    People knew that when they attended “a Scooba football game� that they were going to be entertained one way or the other, if not on the field then along the sidelines.

    His antics became so widely known that Sports Illustrated featured him in a cover story.

    But to me, the most fascinating part of the “Bull� Sullivan story still remains unknown to most people who didn’t know him very well. He was a very intelligent man with a wide field of interests and expertise.

    He had an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master’s degree in anthropology. In one of the several newspaper articles that he wrote, he described life in the now extinct town of Narkeeta, which was located near Porterville. It told of the horse racing track there that drew wagering men from all parts of the country. The story contained an intriguing account of the “outlaw gold� still hidden in a long abandoned well just waiting to be rediscovered by some enterprising individual.

    From his anthropological background he often recited the term “the missing link between man and ape,� this he usually used when he was frustrated with someone who had made a stupid mistake on the practice field. It was usually accompanied by him repeatedly pounding the heel of his open hand against his broad forehead.

    To place maximum emphasis on the large number of first game mistakes, he drew a line from Shakespeare when he named the film of that game, “The Comedy of Errors.�

    Once, while he was giving the team his last minute pre-game instructions, he stated that there would be no dew that night. Then he asked if anyone knew why. When the team manager questioned if it was due to the cloudy sky, he said yes, and then he went on to explain that the two essential things for the dew to form were a fair sky and a calm wind. He probably learned about the dew from the biblical story of God and Gideon. Coach Sullivan knew a lot about the Bible also.

    One day he asked me if I could name the course in which he had learned the most while in college. When I shook my head no, what came out of his mouth could not have surprised me any more than if he had started dancing on his tip toes and singing opera in a soprano voice: Home Economics, he said! Then he went on to tell me that he needed one more course to graduate that semester and the only thing that he could work into his schedule was a home economics class. He said that there were five home economic majors in the class and those girls taught him how to cook and that they all had a ball!

    His intellect never failed to amaze me. Once when he was talking to the track team, he began drawing a diagram of a track on the chalk board. He drew a rectangle with a semicircle at each end. Then he began to draw a diagonal line through the rectangle and said “The Pythagorean Theorem states that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides.� “Bull� Sullivan knew the Pythagorean Theorem!!! Yes, “Bull� Sullivan knew the Pythagorean Theorem… an amazing man!

    One of the last conversations that I had with Coach Sullivan was in the EMCC cafeteria one morning over coffee. He spoke of how much more difficult that it had become to coach football. The younger generation had changed, mostly from the effects of the Vietnam War. People were protesting in the streets. Some of the young people were beginning to challenge authority. I was saddened by the tone of his voice.

    About a year after that conversation, Coach Sullivan died suddenly from a massive heart attack. He was only fifty two years old. What a waste of intelligence…straight out of a Greek Tragedy, but then he probably would have wanted it no other way.

    Editor’s note: The author attended Scooba Grammar School, played on two of Coach Sullivan’s football teams and served with him on the EMCC Faculty.

  • Thanks for the article. I could be wrong, but it seems that this is rapidly becoming the #1 resource site for Bull Sullivan info on the Internet.

  • I am a former high school football coach in South Carolina and never knew Coach Sullivan personally. I did read the original SI article in 1984 and shared it with my students and athletes. We had to read to our classes once a week and this is what I chose to share with my students. Coach Sullivan really became a poplar topic on our campus. He was such an interesting man which is obvious from his following. Those of you who knew Coach Sullivan are better for it but those that had the priviledge of playing for him have the real wealth. Thank you for putting this on the www. I have been looking for it since 1984.

  • Bull was in the same Marine Corp squad as my father, Lawrence Smallwood, who was also wounded on Okinawa after Bull had saved his life. Any information on the Marine Corp years would be appreciated.

    Mike Smallwood

  • I am extremely proud to have played in 1957 for the toughest coach who ever lived. That time frame is one of the most cherished of my life.

    As players we were in awe and fear of this mountain of a man, but we also loved and respected Coach Sullivan, perhaps as no other teacher in our lives.

  • You can’t imagine how much I appreciate stumbling onto this site. I am the oldest son of Bull Sullivan and have borne his nickname (as I did that of Cyclone in high school at Aliceville AL) longer than he had it. I played for him on perhaps his worst team ever in 1958 at Scooba, graduating in the class of 1959. My Mother was his first wife. Virginia was my Stepmother. He was indeed larger than life and I can’t tahnk you enough for perpetuating his memory.

    “Little” Bull

  • Would Mike Selvaggi who posted here on Jan. 24, 2007 and Mike Smallwood who posted on Oct. 11, 2007 please contact me at *address editted*? I would like to further discuss the contents of your posts with each of you. Thanks.

    Bob (Little Bull) Sullivan

    address editted to prevent spamming…referenced parties have been contacted with information ~ Shwiggie

  • Whoa, how awesome is that? Thanks for the reply! I hope you don’t mind that I took out your address. I didn’t want it to be spammed with junk email, so I personally contacted them with your request. Hopefully they’ll reply to you soon.

    A few months ago, I was contacted by a representative of East Mississippi Community College regarding permission to reprint the article originally hosted here. Of course, I gladly gave it (since it doesn’t really belong to me, anyway), and it’s now posted on EMCC’s web site.

  • I played for the Bull on the 1958 team which lost most of the games that year but we beat Decatur at the end of the season which made it a winning season. The All American Ken Waddell was on the team also. We had bad luck and injuries and the fact that we started the season running the Tennessee single wing offense but switched to the split T offense in the middle of the season. It was the first year of the leather helmets which would give you quite a ding when you hit someone. The first time I ever laid eyes on the Bull was in the spring of that year when I went to Scooba to try out for the team. I was walking down the hall of the main building where the class rooms were and saw this giant of a man coming toward me with something red on his forehead. As he got closer I could see the words written in lipstick…BEAT DECATUR. He knew more football than anyone I ever met. Bear Bryant would call and seek his advice.
    Thanks to Frank Deford for one of the best stories ever written in Sports Illustrated.

  • If I may, a short story about myself and Coach Sullivan. Before I went into the service, I called Coach and ask him if he had anything I could do to be on a scholorship. He said come on. So I wound up going with J. Swanz to scout other teams we would play.
    On the sidelines at one game, coach Sullivan thought Ref Bilbo Mitchell was making some bad calls. Coach Sullivan grabbed me by the arm, almost lifted me off the ground and told me to go to Bilbo at halftime and tell him that if he didn’t start calling the game right he(Bull) would see him after the game.
    I went to Ken Wadell(asst coach) after Bull had gone on in, and ask him what should I do? Ken said,” I would do what he said do”.
    I did and The president of the school, Stumpy Harbour, walked up behind me in time to hear what I said. Well I was expelled, but Bull got me back in school. Stumpy never spoke to me again.
    True story.
    Randall Warren

  • My dad Wayne Roberts told me some football stories about Coach Sullivan that would make the hair on my neck stand up. He loved him like a dad ,he said he would always help him if he needed anything. He must have been a great man.
    My son will be a senior in high school this year plays M/L/B AND Q/B ,He has a big autographed picture of the BULL on his wall his grand paw gave him.

  • Re: comments 17 & 18. I remember George Cummings from that 1958 team and he’s right about those leather helmets and Ken Waddell. Ken was one of the best college players I’ve ever seen but we learned that even the great ones sometimes have liabilities. Ken couldn’t throw a pass which was a necessity for a Tennessee single wing tailback and that was the main reason my Dad scrapped the offense in mid-season and went back to the split T with Tommy Polansky, like George and a host of others guys, from Meridian, at QB. As George said, that Decatur game made our season. We won it 20-6 for our only victory that year. Waddell broke his nose in the first half and during halftime it was reset and the managers hastily put a lineman’s cage on that leather helmet and Ken went out in the second half to score two TDs and ice the game for us. To this day that was the toughest athletic act I’ve ever seen. Frank Deford’s article didn’t mention Ken and after it came out I wrote them a letter complaining about that and pointed out Ken’s accomplishments during his three years at Scooba. He went on to Tennessee, which still ran the single wing, and played first team wingback for two years and was instrumental in helping the Vols tie Bear’s Bama team two years running in 1959 and 1960.

    Bilbo Mitchell’s refereeing was always a sore point with my Dad, although Bilbo didn’t have exclusive claims to that since the officiating always seemed to be less than equitable to us. I remember one game, against either Jones or Peral River, where a zebra was marching off a 15-yarder against us and Daddy began berating the official who never broke his stride and we ended up with a 30-yard penalty. One of my all-time favorite “Bull” stories involved Bilbo. Bulled yelled at him allegedly saying, “Bilbo Mitchell, you stink!” Bilbo promptly marched off 15 yards and yelled back, “How do I smell from here, Bull?” For all his toughness, my Dad was equally known for acts like getting Randall Warren back into school. We had another Meridian kid, a freshman, and one of two managers from that city, in 1958 who quit outright and went down to Highway 45 to hitchhike home. Bull got in his car, drove down, picked him up and the kid stuck it out for the rest of that year. When Ken Waddell ws going into his senior year at Scooba, Bull had just arrived from a recruiting trip to Nashville when Virginia told him Middle Tennessee was trying to convince Kenny to enroll there. Bull turned around, got back in his car and drove all the way to Murfreesboro and brought Waddell back. If he hadn’t we’d probably gone winless that year.

    Bob Sullivan

  • I wrote Coach Sullivan in 1959(early in June), and asked him to give me a tryout in August. He wanted a current picture of myself, which I sent. I asked for the tryout because of Ken Waddwll, a friend of m,ine. Coach told me later to report on August 18 and provided me a list of requirements I had to be able to do physically. I hitch-hiked down on the 17th I was 6foot t-and two inches and weighed 220. I thought I was in shape. Anyway, I stayed there and made his team after two weeks twice a day. What an experience. Bob Westmoreland—-June 21, 2008. Coach Sullivan was a great coach and a fine man, and believe me he knew football.

  • Little Bull or “Cyclone”:

    I remember you well. I graduated from Aliceville High School in 1962 and saw you play with Roger Nance, Lamar Lawrence and others under Coach W.R. McKenzy. Just finished reading the SI article on your dad, needless to say it brought back a lot of old memories. My address is moc.loanull@imnyl
    Mike Holliman

  • My dad, Lester Smith, quarterbacked the 1962 EMJC team. My siblings and I have listened with rapt attention to Coach Sullivan stories our whole lives. One of my favorites is the one where Coach Sullivan asked him to play a game without shoulder pads, telling the linemen, “. . . and . . . he . . . better . . . not . . . get . . . hit.” Having heard other Coach Sullivan stories, I had no trouble understanding why Dad complied with the request. On another occasion, 6’4″, 220-pound center Junior Files made a bad snap during a night practice. Coach Sullivan yelled for him to get off the field. On the way to the sideline, Junior mumbled, “Aw, Coach, I can snap it.” Coach Sullivan grabbed Junior, lifting him off the ground, and hollered, “I’ve killed so many men you couldn’t stack them on this football field, and one more won’t make any difference!” The stories go on and on. I always love it when my Dad begins telling one of these stories because I can see him as a young man awestruck by this larger-than-life figure. When he tells the stories, his voice becomes gruff and husky and his face scowls as he mimics Coach Sullivan’s orders to his players and managers. But he is also quick to point out Coach Sullivan’s lighter side, all the times he played tricks on people–like telling Robert Morgan during practice that he was going to shoot him if he didn’t learn how to complete the jump pass my Dad was demonstrating to him. After the next ball went sailing over the receiver’s head, Coach Sullivan paused to let it sink in and then stomped on a cup on the gym floor so that Morgan thought for sure that he had been shot. After a few seconds, Coach Sullivan began to laugh uncontrollably, as did everyone else–except Morgan. Coach Sullivan almost defies attempts to adequately capture his character and his personality on paper. However, my Dad and I are gathering stories (as I’m sure others are as well) in an attempt to preserve a written record of this man. If anyone would like to correspond with me directly to swap stories or to pass along names of other players with vivid stories, please feel free to contact me at ten.retrahcnull@mikdnalliw.

  • I played for Bill Buckner(QB for Bull at Scooba)at Hinds Jr. College in ’84 and ’85. He stopped by my dorm room one day and gave me the SI magazine with the article about Bull Sullivan. I still have that SI magazine in my college truck in the attic. What a crazy time that was in MS JR. College history. Today, lawyers would have a field day, it’s ashame! God Bless!

  • Kim, your Junior Files episode was a repeat of one that happened at a practice in 1958. Our second team center was a Hawaiian guy, Douglas Sproat, who was 6-2 and 215, and he too made a mistake like Junior’s. My Dad grabbed him by the front of his practice jersey, lifted him a foot off the ground and bellowed into his face, “If you do that again I’ll kill you” or words to that effect. What a lot of people may not know is my Dad played the center position in college ball and I’ll never forget the first time he showed me one of his favorite tricks. He told me to back up 15 yards behind him and asked if I wanted the laces up or down. Whatever I chose he snapped the ball like a bullet with the laces where he said they’d be. I still don’t know how he could do that every time and once in practice I remember him demonstrating it. Maybe his being a former center was why he sometimes came down hard on boys playing that position. For all his legendary fits though I never saw one where the guy on the receiving end didn’t deserve it. But he also had a marvellous comic timing such as your cup-stomping story illustrates.

    Bob Sullivan

  • Mr. Sullivan, thank you so much for your comment. Your dad meant so much to so many. He certainly had a deep and profound impact on my dad. I had the good fortune to meet Coach Sullivan in 1969 when he accepted my dad’s invitation to speak at the Foley High School football banquet. Although I was only a few months old and don’t remember his visit to my home, it means something to me to know that we crossed paths. Of course, hearing so many stories over the years made him very real to me. Thank you for adding your stories into the mix.

  • Kim, thanks. Your Dad’s name rang a bell with me and I think it was because my Dad spoke of him in a positive way to me. Your Dad played four years after I did and the year he was the QB I was going through Air Force OTS. My first duty assignment was at Keesler AFB in Biloxi and once when Scooba came down to Perkinston to play what is now called Miss. Gulf Coast I took a friend of mine, a good ole boy from Brooklyn, NY who’d never seen real football. That was Bill Buckner’s first year and he lit up the scoreboard with his passing. My Dad was in his usual form that night as Scooba lost after building an early lead and my frined talked about it all the way back to Biloxi from Pascagoula and all the next week wherever we’d meet with our service cohorts. I graduated from Scooba in 1959 and got a scholarship to Florence State, now the University of North Alabama. We played and lost to Middle Tenn. State and after the game I sought out their QB who’d played for my Dad in high school at Montgomery Bell Academy, one of the premier high school programs in the nation. I saw him play in the Tennessee highest class state title game and he led his eam to a win over their arch rival Isaac Litton, whose QB went on to be a catcher for the Boston Red Sox. The QB had originally gone to Vanderbilt but transferred to MTSC. My Dad was completing his BA degree at Peabody College in Nashville then while working 50 hours a week at a car rental agency and helping coach the MBA team. The QB told me Dad was the reason they won the title that year, that although he wasn’t the head coach it was what he imparted to them that made them do so well. Later that year I talked to a former Pearl River CC player after a game and he said their locker room as the visitors in Scooba was so quiet you could hear a pin drop as their enteire team and coaching staff could clearly hear my Dad chewin gus out on the other side of the wall! He said they were afraid we’d come out like mad men after halftime. I just wish all the accolades that he so justly earned could have come while he was living. Not that he wasn’t greatly repescted, which he cerainly was, as I remember hearing from several people thaf if a player could make it through two years at Scooba under him they could play anywhere. And lots of them did. I don’t think there was a four-year college coach in the country that hadn’t heard of him. Three of his former players were at Florence State the year I arrived. I also remember talking to students who weren’t athletes and who were in classes my Dad taught and to a person they all said he was their favorite teacher.

    Bob Sullivan

  • Bob “Little Bull” Sullivan, One of the best football games that I ever saw was when Marion Military Institute came to Scooba ranked very high in JUCO football. MMI had a large offensive line for that time that averaged over 220 pounds. EMJC’s defensive line did not average 165 that year. EMJC scored a field goal the only time it got past the 50 yard line. MMI made a drive to the EMJC 2 yard line. They tried 6 times to score a touchdown from the 2 yard line. This was the first half. Second half, all defense.
    Score EMJC 3-MMI 0.
    Bob do you remember the wash tubs of catfish we caught on the Sucarnochee River. Great times.

    Best Regards, Don Murray

  • Don,

    If you’re who I think you might be yes I remember those catfish but I thought the Sucarnoochee was a creek. Same difference. I vividly remember, and have told the story numerous times since, how a classmate and I took the afternoon school bus to his home area, seined for some minnows and camped out on that “river.” I remember the coffee and conversation were both great and we ran our set hooks about two or three times that night. I usually put the total at 30 pounds of catfish, not bad for a small stream and set hooks to boot. We had to take the bus back to school the next day and my Stepmother Virginia cooked a nice catfish dinner. In contrast, when I was 12 or so and living in Aliceville my Daddy brought his Scooba team over to the Tombigbee to do what I and my classmate did that night, i.e., camp out and fish for catfish. Bull even used a “telephone” to try to call some up but nothing worked and I caught the only fish that night, a baby not much more than half a foot long. I remember one of his players was doing the cooking and he told me to toss my fish in and I did and the hot grease splattered and burned his hand. I always felt bad about that. Ever the optimist, my Daddy insised on the team eating what they caught for dinner so they ended up dining on fried cornbread. I think that was his 1951 team and they were good at football. I can only hope they got better at catfishing!


  • It was a creek when I was baptized in it twenty-three years ago! I know that the Hwy. 11 bridge at Livingston goes over what it calls “Sucarnoochee River”. Don must be living around there.

  • I’m a dentist in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and remember well the article in SI from ’84. I think it was one of the best articles I’ve ever read from SI.
    Last Thursday, I had a patient in my office who had played for Bull. Due to privacy act restrictions, I can’t say who it is, but I believe everything he told me. He spoke with only the highest reverence for Coach Sullivan. The following is the transcript of an e-mail I fired off to several friends, one of whom has an uncle who played for Bull:

    “Fellow Football Fans:

    A patient I had today was talking about football, and how today’s fans only think about now and tomorrow, not what a coach has done in the past (in refernce to Tuberville), etc. and as the football talk evolved he mentioned that he had played college ball.
    “Oh, yeah? Where?”
    “East Mississippi Junior College.”
    “Did you by chance play for Bull Sullivan?”
    “Oh yes. I’m one of the survivors.”

    Needless to say, I ran behind all morning after that, coaxing Bull Sullivan stories out of him. He lifted his pants leg and pointed, “See that scar? That’s Bull Sullivan. Doing body blocks on pine trees.” He said he’d watch the upper branches of the tree shake while he was waiting his turn again in line. “At the end of it, everybody would be cut and bleeding.” He had to have surgery in his leg to splint some bone in his shin back together, “and they put magnets in there. I showed it to Coach Sullivan and told him I was afraid the magnets might come out, and Coach said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll get you some more.'”

    He said one time, as a pass defender, he let a receiver get behind him, but for some reason the other QB didn’t throw to him. But Coach Sullivan saw him, got furious, and kicked a bucket of water at him so hard from the sideline that it whizzed by his head so close,”I could feel it going by.” Then Sullivan ran over, picked up the bucket, put it on his head, and shouted, “Leave that bucket on ’til I tell you to take it off, ’cause if I look in your eyes any time soon I’m gonna kill ya!” “And believe you me, I thought he would,” he told me. So, he stood on the sideline with a bucket on his head for almost a whole quarter. Sullivan came over, took the bucket off, and snarled, “Now get in there at hit somebody!” My patient said that on the very next play, he hit a receiver so hard that it knocked the player out cold, and they had to carry the guy off the field. “I just picked somebody out to hit; it didn’t matter who. Coach Sullivan could make you reach down to places you didn’t know you had.”

    He said that there was a kid there in Scooba from Montgomery, kinda small, and they had just finished running through a water obstacle course, then trying to block a defensive player. My patient turned to him and whispered, “You ever seen anything like this in your life?” to which he replied, “Never even heard about it!”

    But he held him in high reverence, and attributed to Sullivan his work ethic that he passed on to his sons, one of whom coaches high school ball today near Birmingham. “Coach told me, no matter what I did in life, to be the first one there, and the last one to leave. If you don’t, the competition will get a head of you.”

    I plan to get more stories from him next visit. I have already scheduled him for an extra half hour to accomodate delays.”

    One of the measures of greatness is not just the impact a man has on the present, but on the future. Clearly, the life lessons my patient learned from Coach Sullivan not only molded his life, but that of his children as well.

    Great to read the entries from you others. I hope other former players will emerge from the woodwork, as well.

    Dr Bob Wright
    Tuscaloosa, Ala.

  • I grew up listening to stories of Bull Sullivan and the tales of Scooba. My dad, Charlie Box, played at EMJC during 60 and 61.

    One of the first times I really remember being interested in all the stories and legends was when my high school team (Heritage Academy) was playing Oak Hill Academy. I remember my dad coming to me before the beginning of the game and tell me “Watch out for…I can’t remember his number…that is Baby Doll Pierces boy.”

    Bull Sullivan ment the world to my dad and our family owes Bull much thanks.

  • Your Dad and Baby Doll were both instrumental in getting Scooba back to its former greatness. I graduated a year before your Dad played there but I remember well his name as well as Baby Doll’s. If my Dad had lived, today would have been his 90th birthday.

    Bob (Little Bull) Sullivan

  • Re Bob Sullivan’s post of July 16, 2008

    I am married to the “Hawaiian guy, Douglas Sproat,” but I have not yet been able to get him to post anything. Anyway, when he read that post, he really laughed. He said he remembered a game where Coach Sullivan gave him that very treatment–lifting him a foot off the ground, etc.–during half time. I have heard so many wonderful stories over the years about Doug’s days at “Scooba Tech” and how the coach would so often yell at him, beginning the tirade with, “You stupid Hawaiian!!!”

    Doug heard about this blog last month from one of the members of his hunting club, and we have both enjoyed reading all the entries.

    Patricia Sproat

  • Patricia,

    Doug and I were roommates in the football dorm and as is usually the case with my Dad, there is a story within a story. That pairing was no accident. I spent the summer at Scooba before Doug arrived and after he got there my Dad came to me and said he wanted me to room with Doug because he had come all the away from Hawaii and he didn’t want to risk putting him with some yahoo. My first thought was it looks like I’m the babysitter but Doug was a great roommate and teammate. I was a sophomore when Doug arrived and in that first year he was at Scooba I never heard my Dad call him a “stupid Hawaiian.” It didn’t take a lot to set my Dad off. Doug’s high school coach in Hawaii was a member of the Oregon team on which my Dad was an assistant coach in 1948 and he told me Doug’s coach called him and asked him if he’d take a look at him. I’m glad it all worked out.


  • I was looking for something the other day for my dad and was interested to find that Coach Sullivan wrote for the Cardinal and Cream newspaper at Union University. I was able to get in contact with the historian there and he sent my some of the articles Bull wrote. The are very interesting…one in particular about the great Casey Jones.

  • Mark,

    Would you send me that historian’s email so I can contact him about those articles? Mine is moc.oohaynull@nna_llub. I went to UU’s web site but didn’t see anyone with a “historian” title. I’d imagine that’s an additional duty at a small school. I’m a retired military historian.


  • Hello to all you scooba tech fans. EMJC/ EMCC owes many thanks to the Sullivan family. I lived in Scooba and attended Dekalb H.S. with the Sullivan kids. Graduated with Royce in 1966. attended EMJC 66-67. Broke my right hand defending a Walter Lee Quarrels pass during a practice. I have been chaplin for the LIONS footballteam for six years. iwas one of the ministers officiating Ms. Virginia’s funeral in Columbus,Ms.
    I have many stories also, but the best way to remember COACH is with a smile and much RESPECT for a GREAT MAN.

  • I received this blog today from my sister, Bobbie, after she had spoken to our brother, Little Bull/ Bob this past Sunday. I am the 5th child of Bull Sullivan and the second born of his second wife, Virginia. There is no way to describe the emotions and feelings I have experienced all afternoon reading this information. I have laughed, I have cried and I have been thrilled at every response. I would so enjoy communicating with anyone interested.

    Shwiggie, I do not know you but I certainly would like to meet you to thank you for starting this wonderful testament to our father. Please get back to me, I have lots of questions. I have emailed Bob and I understand from Bobbie that he has gathered a complete chronicle of The Bull’s life, something no one has ever done. What a thrill and what a tremendous gift you have given our family. Thank you so much.

  • Bull’s version of Road Trip:
    The call to “line up” would echo through the family home in The Alamo–the football dorm. We four kids would line up by birth order inside the door. The next call was to “count off”; also by birth order–1, 2, 3, and 4. It would usually follow with be in the car in 5 minutes. We never knew where the road trip was headed. It might be 3 or 4 trips around the circle driveway or 3 or 4 racing runs down the hill by the business office. If you had enough speed at the top of the hill the car would literally leave the raod. This “trip” would make the people of Scooba wonder who had upset Bull and why was he taking it out on the family. The yells they heard were of joy not fear. The trip might be to Macon to get a Dairy Cream cone or to Meridian to see a Disney or John Wayne movie; it might be to an all-night gospel sing in a tent; it might be on a dig for arrowpoints, etc; or it might be on a player recruiting trip.
    The trip to Macon would require us to pass a pond where a tree lay across the water. There would always be turtles sunning on the exposed log. The big contest was to guess how may turtles would be there. What did you win–the pride of having the closet number until the next trip.
    The gospel sing trip resulted in a book of shaped notes songs going home with us for a family recital several days later.
    The recruiting trips would usually feature a lunch in the car. Daddy would stop at a country store and buy a stick of bologna, a loaf of bread, and beverges for each of us. Those would be the best sandwiches.
    I think the entire family, Mother included, would admit that the circles around the driveway or the flying trips down the hill were just as good as acutlly leaving Scooba.
    Normal raod trips??? Maybe not for every family, but they were for Bull’s Bunch.

  • Bob,

    Back in the days when your dad called Doug “you stupid Hawaiian,” people didn’t get all offended by such things–things surely would be different now! Doug gets a huge laugh every time he tells stories about his time at Scooba. Some stories are very specifically related to football, and other are about things like your dad’s response to the taxi driver who drove Doug to Scooba from the airport in Meridian.

    Bob, Doug had last gotten information about you when he went back to Scooba when some writers were holding interviews for a book about your dad. He had such a good time remembering the old days.

    Is there any chance you are going to homecoming at Scooba this year? I’m trying to persuade Doug to go. I think it would be great fun.

    Patricia Sproat

  • Hi. my dad was inducted into the EMJC/EMCC Sports Hall of Fame over the weekend of Oct. 9th.

    Roy Simpson played for coach Sullivan from ’51 to ’53 and was Wigwam All-American in 1952.

    We all had a great time and many of his old teammates were there for his induction, we heard a lot of great stories and took many pictures.
    I could listen to those stories all day and still want more, “Bull” made an impression on many people over the years and still lives on through memories and unbelievable but true stories.

    I did notice that the water tower on the campus still has EMJC on it:)

    Danny Simpson

  • Another one of “BULLS” boys went to be with our LORD October 29, 2009. HENRY W. FAULKNER (Buddy) was killed in a one cae accident near Enterprise Al. Buddy played guard for the Lions and wore jersey #63. They won the Hospitality Bowl his sophmore year. Buddy and wife Tina owned a successful business in Destin Fl. Buddy was President of the BULL SULLIVAN FOUNDATION and worked very close to all at EMCC. He will be missed in many way’s.

  • To All,

    Wow! It’s great to see people are still coming to this site. I have been recommending it to folks ever since I discovered it.

    Bobbie and Royce, thanks for sharing your memories. Patricia, I obviously didn’t make the homecoming this year but wish I could have. It would be great to see Doug after all these years. Danny, your Dad is one of my all-time favorites. I remember watching him play when I was about 13 or so, on the night the lights went out on the visitors side of the field but the Zebras kept the game going and Scooba scored two TDs in the dim atmosphere. Your Dad ran for four or five that night. Rev. Randy, thank you for providing the information on Buddy Faulkner. I searched the Meridian and Columbus newspaper archives after Royce told me about the tragedy but couldn’t find anything. That is such a huge loss for his family and the school.

    Shwiggie can add another notch to The Legend of Bull Sullivan as our Dad was inducted into Union University’s (Jackson TN) Sports Hall of Fame on November 6 this year. I refer to it as his One for the Thumb since it’s his fifth such honor. The uniqueness of this one is that he earned it as a player rather than as a coach. He played for Union in the 1941 and 1942 seasons, earning Little All-American honors for the 1942 season.

    Bob Sullivan

  • I played at EMJC during 1951 and 1952. My position was full-back. I have many stories concerning Coach Cyclone “Bull” Sullivan. I too,have a great respect for the Coach and his wife Virgina; and I remember Bob “little bull”, Royce and Bobby. I have a Christmas card with pictures of Coach Sullivan, Virginia and the girls mailed Christmas of 1953. I also have a picture of Coach with Vic at 3 months old, sitting on “it looks like” the front step of their house. We have throughly enyoyed reading all this information from others who knew our favorite person and Coach who taught me so very much. I remember when we played in Macon, it was extremely cold and Coach had a case of Vicks salve. He gave each player a jar and showed them how to scoop it out and eat it. No one refused, we all did it. It was supposed to keep us from getting sick. Now, every year when we have a cold spell I remember this occasion. When we played Decatur, a team that EMJC had not beaten since 1938 we were having a private practice in a cow pasture behind the “old Alamo”. A plane kept circleing above and Coach told the manager to go get him a rifle. The manager thought it was a joke but when he told him the second time he knew he had better get started. He got the rife, Cyclone Sullivan shot at that plane and it left quickly. Coach thought they were spys. EMJC won that game 40 to 20.

  • Dad, We want more!!

  • Hey Roy, listen to your boy! Since that line rhymes I thought I’d pass along a “Pants on the Ground” moment in my Dad’s career at Scooba. One August afternoon in 1958 in Scooba we were lined up for calisthenics and my Dad was leading us in jumping jacks when without warning his athletic shorts suddenly dropped due south, collapsing in a heap around his ankles. The whole squad broke out in laughter, joined by my Dad. I wouldn’t put it past him to have designed that occasion since he had a purpose behind everything he ever did. Last week while I was watching Brett Favre chanting the latest rap sensation, “Pants on the Ground,” in the Vikings dressing room to the delight of his teammates, I thought of that hot afternoon. We had mostly brutal practice sessions in 1958 but we also had the occasional humorous occurrence that worked sorta like a break in the clouds on a gloomy day.

    And since Roy didn’t mention it, I will. He was, finally, inducted into EMJC’s Sports Hall of Fame in the 2009 class for his outstanding play in my Dad’s first tour at Scooba. The honor was long overdue and I was glad to see it finally happen. See, Roy Simpson was making linebackers and other defensive players put their “Pants on the Ground” back in the day when such behavior was not looked on in the same manner it may be today. 🙂


  • My first trip to Scooba was at the suggestion of Coach Red Drew of the University of Alabama. He gave me a letter and said I was to give it to Coach Sullivan. I never did open that letter, it was only taped and not sealed securely. I always wished I had opened that letter, but I never did. When I first saw the Coach, he was so very big and he looked down at me and was blinking his eyes reapidly. I found out later this condition was caused by a war injury. When I first got there I had just returned from my honey-moon and my mind was not on Football. I was running third string. Thay gave me a pair of size 42 pants and I was size 32. I complained because the pants were too big. Coach “Bull” said “grow into the damm things”. So, I taped the pants on me. I got in one play and fumbled. The next week Coach called me in and said he would have to put me on half scholarship because I was not doing what Coach Drew’s letter said I could do. i asked him to give me one more week. He said O.K. I had a chance to prove myself. I started the next game and all the other games during 1951 & 1952. I’m proud to have played for Coach Sullivan and will always remember him.

  • Roy, I think my Daddy believed what Coach Drew told him about you and he found a way, as he always seemed to, to bring it out of you. I remember several occasions when he did that to inspire players to perform as he thought they could. He also told me one time he’d often thought of adopting Johnny Vaught’s policy at Ole Miss to not have married players but he never did. Vaught was famous, or infamous according to some, for taking away scholarships if a guy got married and he supplied several players to other schools as a result. College football has changed so much when it comes to coaching philosophy and I miss the good old days when mentors like my Daddy and Coach Paul Bryant were in the sport. Now it seems to be more business than anything else.


  • I Grew up in columbus ,ms and graduated from New Hope High in 1984. Growing up in columbus you were introduced to the legend of Bull Sullivan at an early age. We knew the stories long before the SI article came out. It was neat when the story came out because I knew several people mentioned in the article. I played baseball at scooba from 84 to 86. During that time I got to know Randle Bradberry the football coach at that time. Im certain that this story was told to me by him ,but Im not sure.
    Scooba used to play some games at the magnolia Bowl in columbus. Bull would use this opportunity to scout the high school talent in the area. On one such occasion bull situated himself high in the stands to watch a scrimmage at New Hope High. usually coach sullivan would not stay long at high school practices because he didnt want to be a distraction. But on this day the scrimmage was spirited with a lot hard hitting which coach sullivan loved. At some point during the scrimmage a fight broke out between the entire offense and defense. It took several minutes for the New Hope coaches to get things under control and when they did practice was called and the players were escorted into the locker room. A few minutes later the door to the locker room came bursting open and coach Sullivan came charging through and bellowed.”I’ll take every damn one them.”
    I’ve never seen this story in print and felt it should be. I hope my facts are accurate, If not, feel free to edit
    Thanks to all that have posted here, I’ve really enjoyed the reading.

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